Interrogator: Pressure for Intel at Bagram Came From Secretary of Defense
GUANTANAMO BAY — Former Army interrogator Damien Corsetti, dressed in a dark sweater, white shirt and dark tie, is testifying remotely on behalf of Omar Khadr, the 23-year old Canadian detainee held by U.S. forces for eight years and charged with killing an American soldier. While Corsetti did not directly interrogate Khadr while both men were at Afghanistan’s Bagram detention center from July to October 2002, Corsetti said he did have occasion to participate in an interview of Khadr on July 29, 2002 at Bagram’s field hospital — the day after Khadr arrived at Bagram and two days after he sustained near-fatal gunshot and shrapnel wounds, one the size of “a can of Copenhagen” chewing tobacco, Corsetti said.
Yesterday and today, Army Col. Donna Hershey, the head nurse at the Bagram hospital back then, said that she forbade interrogations from occurring in the hospital. But Corsetti said that interrogators asked Khadr about “what kind of military training” he had, as well as his “knowledge of Soviet-issued weapons” and other questions that “would have also assessed his cooperation and knowledgeability.”
The government raised numerous procedural and relevance-based objections to Corsetti’s testimony, delaying it from moving forward. But Corsetti did begin to testify about a “ton of pressure” his company was under at the time.
“This is less than a year after 9/11, so we’re all still pretty heated about that,” he said. “There was a lot of pressure to get intelligence information. This was life and death stuff we were supposedly dealing with. Just a ton of pressure on us to get information out there to save lives and to generate reports.” Unless the unit generated “20 to 40 reports a week,” it would hear complaints from higher command.
Like who? “CJTF180, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, coming from everybody,” he said, using an acronym for what was then the Afghanistan-war command. “The only clear cut rules I remember was we weren’t allowed to strike the prisoners.”
Corsetti was acquitted in 2006 of charges related to detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib.